Expo 2020 Countdown

The winning team in the Sabeel 2020 initiative.

The winning team in the Sabeel 2020 initiative.

UAE group’s fountain designs selected for site

December 2019

Millions of visitors will have access to fresh drinking water from innovative drinking fountains across the Expo 2020 site, thanks to two UAE-based design teams, said the organisers of the mega event.

The winning duo – Architecture + Other Things led by design team Faissal El Malak and Alia Bin Omair and multidisciplinary firm Tinkah – was selected from more than 100 entries under the Sabeel 2020 initiative.

Launched in July, the initiative was a result of the joint collaboration between Expo 2020 and Art Jameel. It called upon the regional creative community to submit concepts that reimagine the sabeel (traditional water fountain) – to celebrate a cultural icon in the region and provide fresh drinking water to visitors during the six months of the world’s mega show.

Mainly aimed at engaging designers, architects, artists and other UAE-based creatives, plus international practitioners with a strong connection to the UAE, Sabeel 2020 was a major success, attracting more than 100 proposals through the open call.

It challenged the designers to showcase their innovative blends of contemporary art and Emirati heritage through creative interpretations of the traditional drinking fountain.

The winning designs of the Sabeel 2020 design contest were submitted by Architecture + Other Things and design team Faissal El Malak and Alia Bin Omair. Multidisciplinary firm Tinkah also received an honourable mention in the competition.

Each of the winning parties will receive a prize of Dh100,000 ($27,221), and the designers will have the opportunity to work with world-class Expo 2020 architects and engineers to adapt their interpretations into 53 fountains across the Expo 2020 site, said the organisers.

Seven internationally respected jurors from the world of art, design and architecture assessed the 20 shortlisted submissions based on criteria such as the strength of the concept, both artistically and technically; consideration of the architecture and environment of the site; visitor usability; interpretation of the sabeel concept; and technical and budgetary feasibility, it stated.

Providing relief to passers-by and travellers and symbolising our collective humanity, the community drinking fountain is a visual marker for the UAE, reflecting the country’s heritage and its spirit of hospitality, tolerance and generosity, it added.  

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